Review: After Moses by Michael F. Kane
After Moses is an engaging space western featuring a gun-slinging captain, a crumbling solar system civilization, and colorful villains. This great sci-fi adventure launches the series of the same name.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed After Moses. I encourage you to check it out!
Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)
This review contains minor spoilers.
After Moses Publisher Description:
His gruff exterior hides a man who wants to do the right thing. But running from trouble won’t work when the planets need a hero.
Arizona Colony, Mars. Matthew Cole doesn’t want anyone else aboard his ship. But the notorious solo freelancer is persuaded against his better judgment to guard a dangerous prison transport along with an exo-suit-clad former rival. Outmaneuvered when the crook’s cronies spring the inmate with heavy firepower, the poncho-wearing captain vows to scour the solar system to restore his rep and claim his paycheck
Reluctantly banding together with his seven-foot partner in her powered armor, Matthew has his hands full leading an unwanted ragtag crew. But the headache of dealing with people again is nothing next to the prickling between his shoulders as he continues to run afoul of greedy politicians and criminal syndicates.
Is this space cowboy’s moral compass sending him to a fatal crash landing?
After Moses is the captivating first book in the After Moses post-apocalyptic science fiction series. If you like complex loners, found families, and thought-provoking scenarios, then you’ll love Michael F. Kane’s pulse-pounding liftoff.
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Near Space Western
After Moses embraces the idea of the space western. The adventures take place within our own solar system, particularly Mars and Jupiter’s moon when the cast isn’t on board their spacecraft. These locations harken distinctly to the classical American Old West—although particularly Southwestern or Argentinian in flavor.
Matthew Cole is a gaucho, complete with campero and poncho, and harboring the spirit of a hardworking freelancer. Even the religious themes of this book reflect some of the iconic gaucho Western tropes, particularly the importance of the local Catholic institutions.
There is plenty of satisfaction to be had for the Western trope enjoyer: saloons, trains, shootouts, settlers, crooked lawmen, cowboys, etc. The frontier setting with the classic struggle between lawlessness and order provides as rich a fodder for space as it did for the Old West, and Kane manages to deliver an engaging story without subverting the iconic.
Characters Better Than Firefly
A cult favorite in the space western genre is the prematurely cancelled tv show Firefly. I found the characters of After Moses to be superior. Maybe this is in part because there is no OnlyFans Karen undercutting the hero at every turn or a preacher-man with some pseudo-religious quip to make me grind my teeth.
Instead, the cast is full of characters that are distinctly likeable. Matthew is struggling with his past, but his faith is genuine. The shieldmaiden is abrasive, but respects Matthew’s authority. The brother-sister pair introduce unpredictability without cringe behavior, and their youth raises the stakes for everyone involved.
There are no romantic ties in this book—perhaps unrealistically so—although that may change as the series progresses. There are some light inquiries about such feelings, but they are brushed off. This keeps the inter-personal tension focused on the hidden pasts of Matthew and Abigale, and works to solidify the new relationships between crew members as reliable instead of sowing uncertainty through relationship drama.
The plot of After Moses feels like the first season of a good tv show. It progresses episodically, with each job introducing new goals, characters, and colorful antagonists that may or may not contribute beyond the shorter arc. Matthew’s nemesis is glimpsed throughout, to appear more tangibly in the final story event.
Matthew’s past provides the plot with over-arching direction, and it is the confrontation of that past which delivers the ramped-up tension for the climax of the book.
The close chronological order combined with Kane’s decision to provide minimal formatting delineations between these episodes keeps the reading experience very smooth, and the mysteries behind the characters provide plenty of pull-through to prevent the story from becoming choppy.
I enjoyed the first-person accounts and history snippets scattered throughout the story that illustrated the setting. I found that the limited solar system and failing rather than growing space civilization added a general feeling of pressure. Moses himself enriched the setting with mysteries to solve and treasures to discover, without ever actually appearing in the story. He also enabled the presence of wonderful futuristic tech without hard sci-fi explanations, simply because so much of the “how” is unknown.
I appreciated how Kane leaned into the religious questions around AI, and let them remain questions (for now). It felt representative of the overall tone of the work: introducing mysteries and treating matters of faith as of equal importance as the technology to traverse the universe.
Faith on the Frontier
I’ve already mentioned briefly the positive treatment of faith you can find in this book. It is tactfully done, allowing Matthew’s beliefs to anchor and guide his character without becoming preachy.
I found the antagonist extremely interesting due to his unique stance regarding Matthew’s faith. Rather than a villain who desires to undermine the hero’s beliefs, he sees them as a valuable means of approaching his own goals from an opposing angle. It is a great trope change that keeps the dramatic emphasis on the tension between them and establishes Matthew’s beliefs as part of his character and not up for negotiation.
Check Out After Moses!
After Moses delivers a compelling space western with likable characters and a positive treatment of faith. I am eager to try the rest of the series!
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